Find My Doctor

Check to see if your provider is available through UH Personal Health Record.

Find your doctor now.
How to find your doctor.

It’s Never Too Late to Quit

Posted 2/8/2018 by UHBlog

Are you ever too old to kick butt? Talk to us about ways to successfully quit smoking.

Older couple smiling

You're never too old to stop smoking. More importantly, the benefits of kicking the cigarette habit are seen at every age.

“As people get older, they think that after 30, 40 or even 50 years of smoking, there is no benefit to stopping,” says certified nurse practitioner Kathryn Alto, CNP. “There really is no age when it's too late to stop smoking. Studies show that there are positive changes in your health seen as quickly as 20 minutes after your last cigarette.”

These changes include:

  • Within 20 minutes of your last cigarette, blood pressure begins to drop
  • After eight hours the carbon monoxide level in your blood returns to normal
  • When 24 hours have passed, your risk for heart attacks decreases
  • Within 48 hours, nerves start to regenerate and you can smell and taste better
  • Between one and nine months, coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue and shortness of breath are less
  • After 10 years, the lung cancer death rate is half of that seen among those who still smoke
  • By 15 years, your risk of heart disease is the same as someone who never smoked

“People are living longer, so seniors can see these long-term benefits,” Alto says. “It isn’t all that unusual for a person who is 65 or even 75 to live long enough to see the benefits 10 or 15 years later.”

There are other indirect, positive benefits that happen when you quit smoking, such as:

  • Fewer medications. The lessening of blood pressure and shortness of breath may mean you can lower or eliminate medications to treat these conditions.
  • Less chronic health risks. Smokers are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and more than twice as likely to have a stroke.
  • Lowers risk of fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, smoking is the No. 1 cause of fires resulting in death among seniors.
  • Bone protection. Quitting lowers bone loss from osteoporosis and lessens the risk for fractures.

“The methods that are successful in smoking cessation in seniors are pretty much the same as in younger adults,” Alto says. “My usual recommendation is behavioral therapy and medication. The former to help break old habits connected with smoking and the latter to treat the effects of nicotine withdrawal.”

Along that line, Medicare will often help with the costs associated with smoking cessation programs. It may also pay for prescription medications to help you quit, such as bupropion (Zyban) or varenicline (Chantix).

If you’re thinking to replace your smoking habit with e-cigarettes (or vaping, where you inhale vapor instead of smoke), Alto doesn't recommend that. She says you're still getting the bad effects of nicotine.

“With vaping, you’re not as exposed to many of the chemicals in tobacco smoke,” she says. “But there are still chemicals in the vapor. It is a new product, so we really don’t know the long-term effects and if we're just exchanging one set of harmful products for another.”

Setting Yourself Up for Quitting Success

To help you get serious about kicking the habit, Alto offers these six tips for success:

  1. Preparation is crucial. You are more likely to quit smoking if you plan in advance rather than stopping on a whim. Set a date in the near future and stick to it.
  2. Avoid triggers. In addition to the physical addiction of smoking, there are also mental triggers of cravings. Avoid rituals associated with lighting one up.
  3. Form new habits. Breaking routines can be easier when you are starting new ones. Take advantage of your improving health by exercising – which also lessens any weight gain you might experience initially when you quit.
  4. Remember that cravings are temporary. The desire to smoke usually peaks around three days without a cigarette. Even intense cravings can be overcome, since they only last around five minutes.
  5. Find help. The chances of success increase with support. Your health care provider can help with education, counseling and finding supportive groups. Family and friends can also help to keep you busy and distract you from your cravings.
  6. If at first you don’t succeed… Quitting is hard and you may not make it the first, second or even fifth time. Many experts suggest you don’t look at that as failure, but as practice. Figure out why you started back, learn from your mistakes, regroup and set another stop date.

Kathryn Alto, CNP is a certified nurse practitioner at University Hospitals Bedford Primary Care. You can request an appointment with Alto or any health care provider online.

Posted in

"Better Living" Health & Wellness

Do you know which foods aren't as healthy as you think? Ever wonder what to look for in a running shoe? Do you know the warning signs of stroke? The answer to these questions and many others are contained in our monthly "Better Living" e-newsletters. For a FREE subscription, visit our Sign Up page.

Sign Up Now